Jordan Montgomery is one of 2021’s Top Sleeper Starting Pitchers
After throwing over 155 innings in 2017, then making six starts in 2018, Jordan Montgomery missed time due to an elbow flexor strain. Then in June 2018, the Yankees announced that Montgomery would undergo Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of the 2018 season and most of the 2019 season outside of two appearances for four innings total in 2019.
In 2020, Jordan Montgomery, fortunately, didn’t land on the injured list and pitched relatively well in 10 starts. With that said, we’ll dive into Jordan Montgomery’s surface stats and advanced metrics to determine what to expect moving forward in 2021.
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Jordan Montgomery 2020 Season
In 2020, Jordan Montgomery made 10 starts and pitched 44 innings total with one quality start. Montgomery also made four other starts where he pitched five innings and allowed three or fewer runs. Over the shortened 2020 season, Montgomery finished with a 9.61 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, a 5.11 ERA, and 1.30 WHIP. When comparing his 2017 season, Montgomery improved his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate in 2020. Given the lack of innings pitched in 2018 and 2019 due to injuries and Tommy John surgery, we’ll mostly compare 2017 and 2020. For reference, the stats below give us a snapshot of the past four seasons.
2017: 155.1 IP, 8.34 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, 3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
2018: 27.1 IP, 7.57 K/9, 3.95 BB/9, 3.62 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
2019: 4 IP, 11.25 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 6.75 ERA, 1.75 WHIP
2020: 44 IP, 9.61 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, 5.11 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 12, 2020
Batted Ball Profile
Let’s briefly touch on Jordan Montgomery’s batted ball profile. In 2020, Montgomery allowed a 25.6% line drive rate, 42.9% ground ball rate, and 31.6% fly-ball rate. When looking at his career rates, they finished similar to 2017, with a career line drive rate of 19.5%, a 41.4% ground ball rate, and a 39.1% fly-ball rate. Interestingly, Montgomery finished with a 16.7% HR/FB rate in 2020, even though his fly ball rate dropped compared to his career fly-ball rate. On the flip side, Montgomery’s 3.87 xFIP rated lower than his actual ERA, which makes sense since xFIP takes into account a league-average HR/FB rate. With that said, since Jordan Montgomery pitches in a hitter-friendly ballpark, his xFIP could fluctuate based on his HR/FB rate, amongst other factors.
We take all of these metrics with a grain of salt since it’s a small sample when comparing 2017 and 2020. Next up, let’s dig into Jordan Montgomery’s plate discipline metrics. He finished with a slightly higher 12.9% swinging-strike in 2020 compared to 12.2% in 2017. Although it’s a small tick up, it’s reflected in his higher 9.61 K/9 in 2020.
Hitters made less zone contact but made more contact outside of the zone, evidenced by Montgomery’s 80.6% Z-Contact% that decreased from 86.3% in 2017. Meanwhile, his 65.9% O-Contact% jumped almost ten percent from 55.9% in 2017. Furthermore, Montgomery’s O-Swing% almost increased four percent, with a 37.1% O-Swing% in 2020. In analyzing his plate discipline metrics, the combination of the higher O-Swing% and O-Contact% likely contributed to the higher strikeout rate as well. Granted, it’s a small sample, and with that said, let’s dive into his pitch mix and plate discipline by pitch.
Pitch Mix & Results
Next, let’s dig into Jordan Montgomery’s pitch mix and results. He primarily uses four pitches, including a sinker, changeup, curveball, and four-seam fastball. Montgomery sprinkled in a cutter as a fifth pitch at 6.7% of the time, but it appeared as a brand new pitch in 2020, according to Statcast data. Overall, Jordan Montgomery uses his primary four pitches relatively evenly between 19% and 26.6%. The table below shows the pitch usage and results in 2020. We’ll also include and compare the pitch usage and results from 2017.
As mentioned earlier, we left out 2018 and 2019 data since it’s a smaller sample and injury-related. When comparing 2017 and 2020, we notice the same pitch mix for Jordan Montgomery, but with a slightly different usage rate. Montgomery’s changeup and curveball performed well in both seasons, especially with his swings and misses and low expected stats. Since he regularly uses the offspeed and breaking pitches with effectiveness, it provides reasons for optimism moving forward. However, let’s highlight that both fastballs finished with improved swinging-strike and whiff rates in 2020. Over a full season, it makes us wonder how these results would fluctuate. However, it’s nice to see that Montgomery uses a full arsenal of pitches relatively evenly.
Jordan Montgomery 2021 Outlook
In terms of his expected ERA, Jordan Montgomery had a 3.87 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, and 3.86 xERA compared to his 5.11 ERA. As mentioned earlier, xFIP takes into account a league-average HR/FB rate, and Montgomery pitches in a hitter-friendly ballpark, meaning he could have a higher HR/FB rate than we would like. It also makes sense to see the lowered xERA since he ranked highly in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate allowed. Montgomery ranked in the 95th percentile with an 84.6 mph average exit velocity and 88th percentile with a 29.9% hard-hit rate. In 2017, Montgomery ranked slightly above league average in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate allowed, so his 2020 numbers likely even out over a full season.
When looking at his early ADP, Jordan Montgomery has a Fantrax ADP of 280.43 and an NFBC ADP of 235.25. On Fantrax, Montgomery ranks as the 92nd starting pitcher while ranking as the 85th overall pitcher on NFBC. Starting pitchers drafted near Montgomery on Fantrax include Brad Keller, Mitch Keller, Dylan Cease, and Matthew Boyd. For reference, on NFBC, other pitchers drafted around him – Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, and Chris Sale. When looking at Jake Devereaux’s Top-100 Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2021, he doesn’t have Montgomery ranked. With that said, Montgomery appears as a fair value given the overall ADP and pitchers drafted near him.
Reasons for Concern & Optimism
Let’s start with the reasons for concern, which involves the lack of innings due to Tommy John surgery and the relatively hitter-friendly home ballpark. However, hopefully, he builds upon the 2020 season heading into 2021. Reasons for optimism include the solid 9.61 K/9 and low 1.84 BB/9 with a 4.7% walk rate (92nd percentile). With Jordan Montgomery providing a decent amount of strikeouts and limiting the walks, it’s an enticing profile. Another reason for optimism involves his four-pitch mix that he uses evenly, especially the sneaky reliable changeup and curveball. Overall, assuming his ADP doesn’t jump any higher, target Montgomery in drafts as a sleeper.
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